The American Heart Association (AHA) is committed to helping people stay healthy throughout their lives. As part of this commitment, the organization oversees a range of programs and activities focused on research, education, and advocacy. Along with more than 3,000 employees at 156 local offices, AHA leverages the work of over 22.5 million volunteers and supporters to ensure that people of all ages have access to quality health care services and public health education.
In recent years, the association’s work has heavily emphasized children’s health, as obesity rates and preventable health conditions among young people have started to increase. In order to reverse these negative trends, the AHA is targeting youth health through various initiatives implemented in schools and communities. Read on to learn more about how the American Heart Association is working with community partners to help youth to become and stay healthy.
Providing Educational Programs and Resources
For educators, the AHA provides a variety of resources to support health education in the gym and classroom. Elementary and middle school teachers can visit the association’s website to find lesson plans and teaching guides. The resources integrate lessons about heart health, fitness, and nutrition into the math, science, language arts, and social science curriculum. The AHA also offers ideas for educational games and activities that get students moving while teaching them about the cardiovascular system.
Putting the Fun in Healthy Fund-Raising
One of the American Heart Association’s most well-known school programs is Jump Rope For Heart, which is sponsored by the AHA and the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE). Each year, Jump Rope For Heart events are held in schools across the country. In addition to promoting heart awareness and providing heart-healthy education, the jump rope events help to raise funds to support the AHA’s life-saving research. Today, teachers, coaches, and other school officials can also conduct a Hoops For Heart event, an AHA fundraiser that engages students in basketball activities.
Challenging Youth to Become More Active
Along with its Jump Rope For Heart and Hoops For Heart events, the AHA encourages young people to be more physically active through the NFL Play 60 Challenge. Initially launched in 2006, the challenge is a joint effort between the AHA and the NFL that seeks to reduce the rate of childhood obesity by inspiring children and teens to exercise for a minimum of 60 minutes each day.
In order to encourage teachers and schools to become involved in implementing the program, the AHA and NFL offer online training videos and educational resources that include over four dozen subject-based lesson plans and more than 100 ideas for physical activity breaks and homework assignments. Teachers can also register for the Play 60 Challenge Tracker, which provides an easy way to monitor students’ physical activity. The tracker also offers schools the ability to compare their activity with others taking part in the four-week challenge.
Teaching CPR in Schools
Over the course of more than 90 years, the AHA has been a leading source of emergency cardiovascular care training and education. People across the country now rely on the organization’s programming to learn how to respond to health emergencies using lifesaving CPR techniques. The AHA also delivers training in schools as part of its goal of having all of the nation’s teachers and students trained in CPR.
Through the AHA’s upgraded CPR in Schools Training Kit, up to 20 people at a time can learn CPR skills in a single class period. The kits are also reusable, so hundreds of people can receive training with a single kit. Anyone can order a CPR in Schools Training Kit on the AHA website to help students learn how to respond to an emergency at school or at home.
Giving Kids a Healthy Way to Grow
Outside of school, the AHA works with other organizations, including early childhood centers and programs, which serve approximately 60 percent of American children 5 years old and younger. In partnership with Nemours Children’s Health System, the association advances Healthy Way to Grow, a program that helps early childhood providers to create and implement wellness policies that aim to reverse childhood obesity.
The wellness policies tackle the obesity epidemic by providing child care providers with a guide for improving nutrition, increasing physical activity, and reducing screen time. Healthy Way to Grow also helps providers reach out to families to encourage healthy habits at home. Since the AHA and Nemours launched the program, the network of participating organizations has grown to include 345 early childhood centers serving more than 37,000 children in several US states.
Empowering Advocates of Childhood Health
For the last three decades, the AHA has been bringing people together through You’re the Cure, a grassroots advocacy campaign that focuses on building healthier communities. You’re the Cure advocates for legislative and regulatory policies in a variety of areas, including childhood health. Recently, the campaign has been advancing key issues related to diet and nutrition.
AHA advocates are calling for states to pass a tax on soda, energy drinks, and other sweetened beverages, which are a major source of the added sugar in young people’s diets. You’re the Cure is also focused on promoting and protecting the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, a 2010 law that gives students access to healthy school meals.
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